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AMD to hire TSMC to fab 'Fusion' CPUs?

Major foundry deal in the offing, moles claim

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AMD is said to be planning to add chip foundry TSMC's name to its (short) list of processor production partners later this year. TSMC's alleged role: to fab AMD's upcoming 'Fusion' CPU.

So say unnamed industry sources cited by DigiTimes, and the notion isn't without merit or precedent.

AMD already uses Singapore's Chartered Semiconductor to produce processors. Chartered was signed up in November 2004, but it was almost two years - July 2006 - before AMD said the deal was yielding it revenues. The deal centred on 90nm chips, and in October 2006 it was claimed Charted had already been certified to punch out 65nm Athlons and Opterons.

The moles suggest TSMC will come on stream in the second half of the year. It's not clear whether that's the point at which the partnership will be announced, or that the foundry will begin production. We'd suggest the former, given the sources' claim that TSMC has begun testing an silicon-on-insulator (SOI) process - a key element of AMD CPU construction, incidentally.

Testing the process, fine-tuning it and winning AMD approval is likely to take some time, so if TSMC is gearing up to fab AMD64 parts, it won't be doing so in volume until 2009 at the earliest.

That's when Fusion is scheduled to debut. Fusion is AMD's modular architecture for multi-core processors, where CPU cores can be swapped out at the design stage for specialist processing units like GPUs and TCP/IP packet handlers. This, it believes, will allow it to build mix'n'match CPUs, allowing it to target different applications with the same core technology, more efficiently and thus more cheaply.

Of late, AMD has refused to discuss its manufacturing strategy, CEO Hector Ruiz saying only that the company's plans are "bold".

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